20 July 2013

The Big Experiment - Buying Our First Boat

We took the plunge at the end December 2012 and kicked off the really big experiment of owning our own boat in New Zealand. We bought a Raven 26 MK2 called Rainbow's End from a work colleague and her husband who after having a new baby found they weren't able to sail much anymore. And their baby is really cute so I can see why they chose her over the boat!

The Raven 26 is a real Kiwi classic. It was designed by Owen Woolley and approx. 400 were built during the 70s-80s. There were two versions of the Raven 26 built - the earlier ones with a ply sandwich construction and the later ones with solid fiberglass decks (we have the latter one). The Raven 26 was designed to be a high performance cruising yacht with what has been described as an "amazing amount of room both below and above decks". After learning to sail on a Davidson 20, I thought the Raven was huge when I first saw it. This may be part of Scott's cunning plan - he starts me off on a tiny boat so that I'm thrilled when we get a 26' one and then I'll be overjoyed when we upgrade to a larger boat.

Her length is 26' (pretty obvious given she is called a Raven 26), her length on the water (LWL) is 21' (I'm still not sure why you would want to know that but Scott tells me that it is so you know about the speed of the boat) her beam is 8'9" which makes her "beamy" (this is a good thing as it means the boat feels roomier down below), she has a flush deck (which means more headroom down below), her draft is 5', she has a 3000lb ballast and has a displacement of 25 tons. She has a 10 horsepower Yanmar inboard engine, tiller steering and two blade folding prop. There is an old tiller pilot which came with the boat but it hasn't been mounted and we haven't used it.

In terms of sails, she came with a Ligard main sail with four battens and two reef points and a Ligard headsail with a Reef Rite roller reefing system. For those that don't know (and I certainly didn't), Reef Rite is a New Zealand product and regarded as one of the best roller reefing systems made. The beauty of it is that the lower drum has holes in it where a pawl is inserted to reef the headsail. The pawl is attached to a wire that is led aft along the toe rail to the cockpit. This means that there is no tension on the reef line and you never have to worry about the headsail rolling out accidentally even when completely furled. Now that I've experienced a roller reefing set-up, I don't think I could ever have a boat without one. It makes life so much easier. We also have a snuffing spinnaker and a spinnaker pole but we haven't tried it out yet. There is a traveler located on the coach roof and a kicking strap.

Rainbow's End also came equipped with some gadgets including a Navman chart plotter and fish finder (with a chart chip for the North Island) and a CD player with two internal speakers and two cockpit speakers which means we can crank up the Bob Marley while out sailing.  There is of course also a VHF radio. Scott has taken a marine radio course so he sounds very official to me when he is on the radio.

And of course one of the most important things you need on a boat is an anchor. Ours is a 7kg Rocna anchor with 10m of chain and 50m of rode. I'm in charge of dropping the anchor (although Scott tends to come up front and finish the job off for me). Scott is in charge of pulling the anchor up while I steer the boat as he has bigger biceps. I'm thinking that we want an electric windlass when we upgrade our boat so that I don't have to rely on Scott to hoist the anchor.

Rainbow's End came with a dinghy but she had a lot of holes in her and didn't stay inflated for very long. These aren't qualities you want in your dinghy. So we bought a new Zoom slatted inflatable dinghy. We have a 2.2hp Mercury outboard engine for the dinghy which came with the boat.

We also have a boom tent on the boat which we haven't used too much as it doesn't really get too hot in New Zealand. But is it nice to have when we need it.

The main cabin has 6' headroom which means Scott can stand up, as long as he stands on one certain spot. I've learned that when they give a number for headroom that is the maximum and of course the walls slope down (unlike in a house on land) and therefore the headroom varies. Our Raven has a kitchen set up on the port side with a sink and two burner LPG stove and broiler. There is a bit of counter space to the right of the stove along with a small settee with a cooler underneath. A settee runs along the starboard side and you can set up a folding table between the two settees for eating. When not in use, we keep the table folded up and hung on a wall next to the toilet. Thankfully, the toilet is in a separate alcove and not under the bed (as it was in the Davidson 20 that we chartered in the Bay of Islands). So much easier to get up at night to go to the bathroom without everyone else having to get out of bed! Across from the toilet is a vanity area with sink. If we had plans to keep the Raven 26 longer term I think we would take the vanity area out and use it for something else as we have another sink already. We met another couple who has a Raven 26 (they were really cute in their matching Great Barrier hats) and they loved the fact that they had two sinks. I can't quite see the value of it in such a tiny boat but everyone likes different things. There is a double v-berth and two full length quarter berths in the stern and she technically sleeps five. The Raven 26 has been described as having "ample stowage which makes it ideal for extended passage-making." I'm not sure that "ample" is the word I would use but perhaps it is for a 26' boat. We don't live on our boat so haven't really had to try to maximize the storage but do plan on living on her for a few months this summer so we'll put that to the test! The Raven 26' has the potential for off-shore cruising (there are some that cruised in the Pacific Islands) but I can't quite get my head around taking such a small boat off-shore so I think we'll stick to coastal cruising in New Zealand with ours.

We keep Rainbow's End at Westhaven Marina in Auckland in the pile moorings. The pile mooring are much cheaper than the marina berths but it does mean that we have to row our dinghy out to the boat. Of course when I say "we" I mean Scott rows and I cheer him on. Unfortunately, they plan on doing away with the pile moorings as part of a renovation of Westhaven which means that people on a budget won't have that option going forward.  However, Westhaven is a really nice marina with good facilities and having a great location in central Auckland.

Rainbow's End - Starboard Side (ducks looking for handout)

Rainbow's End - Port Side

Rainbow's End - Interior
View of galley area to left, little settee to the right, glimpse of vanity sink in front of settee with toilet across from it (not visible) & double v-berth


  1. Boats come in different types, makes, sizes, and appearance. There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the boat that would suit your preferences and needs the best. It's a good thing that you made yourselves knowledgeable about the specifics. This will make it easier for all of you to take care of your boat and give her the treatment she would need.
    Sam @ NW Recreational Liquidators

    1. Boat buying is complicated - lots and lots to consider when deciding what type of boat to get for sure!

  2. Rainbow’s end looks like a really nice boat. The interior is pretty impressive, and it has the complete basic necessities for sailing. Anyway, how is the boat doing nowadays? I bet you’ve had some pretty great sailing adventures with it by now. Thanks for sharing!

    Kent Garner @ Whites Marine Center


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